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How to Remove Ice Dams

Warm air radiating upward from a home melts snow on the roof. The melt water trickles toward the gutter, but the cold exterior air soon freezes it. The result is known as an ice dam. When you spot one of these on your home, you need to know how to remove ice dams quickly to avoid potentially serious damage.

As more ice builds up, the weight could bend or break your gutter system. The trapped ice also creates opportunities for water to back up underneath your shingles. Roof decking could start to rot, or water can begin to leak into your home. Although your first impulse might be to knock the ice loose with a hammer or pick, this is not the right approach. The blunt force could damage the shingles. Even minor dings to the shingles reduce their weather resistance. Water can take advantage of this damage until finally the shingles crack.

Distributing ice melting products on the ice dam is not a good idea either. These chemical products will deteriorate the shingles and other roofing materials. Compromised shingles will eventually lead to water penetrating your home. As a homeowner, you have a couple of options when learning how to remove ice dams. Since you’ll be working on a ladder, take safety precautions. Ideally, you’ll address the problem causing the ice dams when you have a chance. Until then, it remains important to halt the accumulation of ice as soon as possible.

Directions for How to Remove Ice Dams

Hot water method:

  1. If you have a utility sink with a threaded faucet, you have the ability to deliver hot water to your roof. Hot water is one of the fastest methods to remove ice dams.
  2. Connect a garden hose to the threaded faucet.
  3. Extend the garden hose outside to the ice dam location.
  4. Lean a ladder against the roof and make sure that it is stable.
  5. Turn on the hot water.
  6. Climb the ladder and bring the hose up to the roof.
  7. Run hot water over the ice until it melts away.

Snow rake method:

  1. A snow rake has a long handle and small wheels on the shovel blade. You use it while standing on the ground.
  2. Standing back from the house, lift the roof rake onto the roof.
  3. Depending on the depth of snow, place it a few feet up from the edge. If snow if very deep, rake only 1 or 2 feet of snow at a time. If snow is shallow, you may be able to rake 3 or 4 feet with each swipe.
  4. Pull the rake toward you and drag snow off the edge. The wheels on the rake elevate it enough to leave a thin layer of snow on the roof. This is how it is supposed to work because you don’t want to scrape the shingles directly.
  5. In order to learn how to remove ice dams you’ll need to know how to snow rake because it takes away the snow feeding the ice dam with melted water.
  6. You may want to rake the snow after melting an ice dam with hot water to stop it from forming again.
  7. Snow raking after a heavy snowfall can be a preventative measure as well.
  8. After a fresh snow fall, rake your roof to minimize melted water.

Tools & Materials

  • Ladder
  • Garden Hose
  • Snow rake with wheels

Schedule a Professional Roof Inspection

If ice dams are a persistent problem at your Mid-Atlantic home, you could already have roof damage. A roofer can inspect your roof for damage and determine the cause of your ice dam. The most frequent culprit is inadequate or nonexistent attic insulation. Insufficient attic insulation lets heat escape upward. This melts roof snow even on very cold days, and the melted water quickly freezes farther down the roof. Even knowing how to remove ice dams does not protect your roof entirely. Recurring ice dams will result in damage over the long term.

A roofing specialist from PJ Fitzpatrick can check your roof and inform you of its status. Our home improvement contractors can complete repairs to shingles or gutters caused by ice dams. Contact us today for any of your roofing or gutter problems.

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